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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Actuaries reminded of legal duty to recognise climate-related risks

It is increasingly likely that actuaries and investment consultants could face legal action should they fail to recognise the financial implications of climate risks.

Legal duty to consider climate change risk ©Shutterstock
Legal duty to consider climate change risk ©Shutterstock

That is the warning from environmental lawyers at ClientEarth, which argue that pension scheme advisors are delaying effective action and proper risk management in relation to the impact of climate change on investments.

If this threatens scheme funding, they could be in breach of their legal duties to “work within reasonable levels of skill and care” and may become prime targets for parties that have suffered a loss.

The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) issued a ‘Risk Alert’ earlier this year asking members to consider how climate risk affects the advice they give, which is thought to be a clear indicator of an industry standard emerging.

IFoA president, Marjorie Ngwenya, said: “We recognise that practice for taking account of climate-related risks is still evolving and tools need to be further developed.

“We have already published a guide and two supporting reports to help, and will continue to investigate the impact of climate risk across other relevant sectors, and publish further guidance where appropriate.”

ClientEarth’s warnings were published in two reports, one for pensions actuaries, and one for investment consultants, which draw on guidance from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) released earlier this year.

They also refer to a legal landmark opinion from 2016, which states that if pension trustees find climate change to pose a material risk to a fund, they are then legally bound to manage it accordingly.

In addition, the reports warn of a growing risk of regulatory intervention if actuaries fail to consider and act on climate risk, and remind them of their ‘whistle blowing obligations’ to report breaches of the law to the TPR.

“Climate risk is present throughout the investment chain and so too is the responsibility to monitor and manage it,” ClientEarth lawyer, Daniel Wiseman, said.

“We hope that greater awareness of these legal duties will help protect professional advisers, trustees and the schemes they serve, from loss and liability arising from climate change risk.”

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